When called upon to act as an expert witness, a member shall conduct her/himself in accordance with the ‘Role and Duties of the Expert Witness’ set out by the Australian Council of Professions, which states:
- The role of the expert witness in litigation is to assist the court in the administration of justice by providing an opinion or factual information based on the expert’s competence in a subject which is outside the knowledge, skill or experience of most people. It is founded in the need for a court charged with the resolution of a matter for access to knowledge relevant to the matter which it does not possess of itself.
- It follows that the opinion is only useful if it is based on the expert’s area of competence, includes all relevant matters and is impartial and dispassionate.
- Thus the primary duty of an expert is to the court because of his or her role in the process as defined above. An expert is subject to the normal duty in respect of evidence of fact to be complete, accurate and truthful.
- The expert owes a second duty to the body of knowledge and understanding from which his or her expertise is drawn. This implies recognition of its limitations and the humility which should flow from such recognition, since the outcome of litigation is likely to influence the practical application of such knowledge and understanding in the future. It also implies dealing with the opinions of other competent experts in a respectful manner. It is important to the overall process that the integrity of the processes by which knowledge is acquired and understanding developed should not be degraded. Thus the secondary duty of the expert witness is to the body of knowledge and understanding.
- The expert witness owes a third duty to the party which has sought his or her advice. That duty is to provide the advice in the context of the first and second duties above, which implies that the expert should not be an advocate for a party. This is a tertiary duty.
See also the Federal Court of Australia’s Guidelines for Expert Witnesses in Proceedings.